Demagogue: "Someone who rhetorically exploits (an issue) for political purposes in a way calculated to appeal to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people." (Definitions from Oxford Languages)
By: Rhonda Williams 08/03/2023
|Joseph McCarthy and the
Force of Political Falsehoods
In the long history of American demagogues, never has one man caused so much damage in such a short time as Senator Joseph McCarthy. We still use “McCarthyism” to stand for outrageous charges of guilt by association, a weapon of polarizing slander. From 1950 to 1954, McCarthy destroyed many careers and even entire lives, whipping the nation into a frenzy of paranoia, accusation, loyalty oaths, and terror. When the public finally turned on him, he came crashing down, dying of alcoholism in 1957. Wikipedia
McCarthy's villain was communism, a political ideology that few fully understood. However, McCarthy convinced the American people of his day it was the evil to end all evils. Joseph McCarthy framed the Cold War ideological struggle in terms of Christian morality vs immoral “communistic atheism.” McCarthy ruined lives of innocent people. He ruined the reputations of many by accusing them without credible evidence. e.g. Dr. Oppenheimer was seen by many in the scientific community as a martyr to McCarthyism.
Fast forward: The boogeyman / villain that Ron DeSantis has manufactured is "Wokeism". Generally defined as a progressive ideology demonstrated as the expression of sensitivity to systemic injustices and prejudices. However, DeSantis has given it a new nonsensical definition:
We know what ‘woke’ is. It’s a form of cultural Marxism. It’s about putting merit and achievement behind identity politics. And it’s basically a war on the truth [his version]. And, as that has infected institutions, it has corrupted a lot of institutions. So you’ve got to be willing to fight the woke.” The Hill
When DeSantis speaks of “woke,” he isn’t just talking about what some may perceive as the excesses of political correctness or a liberal culture. He is inserting himself into the cultural fabric of our every day life. How we must think. How we must act. How we teach.
He is declaring that those in the LGBTQ community have no right to exist. He is re-writing history so that racist thinking seems legitimate. He wants us to close our eyes to the racist reality many Americans still have to face. He is banning books and having them removed from school libraries. He has “effectively banned” an Advanced Placement Psychology class. He sees women as lesser humans that have no say over their bodies.
What’s worse, he’s using the “woke” moniker to ridicule, scorn and silence those who speak up about inequalities or who dare to think differently. Disagree, and be punished. Sound familiar. (DeSantis takes over Disney district, punishing company)
On June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army–McCarthy hearings Joseph N. Welch, a lawyer and actor, finally stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy. with these words. "At long last, have you no sense of decency?" These words were seen as a turning point in the history of McCarthyism.